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It’s Jamelia today in Greenbelt land

AN UNGAINLY YOUTH surfing on the upstretched arms of the crowd in front of Jamelia, the beautiful chart-topper who closed the festival on Monday night; an infant enjoying a first encounter with African drums; bewigged 20-somethings vamping at a sing-along-a Joseph; your editor lying on the damp grass and drinking in the wisdom and charm of the Irish priest-philosopher-author John O’Donohue; teenagers racing each other, their faces covered with Vaseline and cotton-wool balls. . .

 

Greenbelt has now become so diverse that it is impossible to sum it up in a way that would be recognised by more than a fraction of those who attended. During the three-and-a-half days at the Cheltenham racecourse, couples and families tended to come together only to pore over the programme to decide which of the talks, concerts, performances or exhibitions they would scatter to next. It was only late at night or early in the morning that the number of options dropped below 20.

 

The usual criteria for festival reports hardly apply. Yes, the numbers coming continue to rise each year, though they are not in the same league as Reading or Notting Hill. But there were none of the other sorts of festival figures: no arrests for violence or drug-related offences. I can’t say that for certain, because nobody thought to ask at the closing press conference, but it’s a safe guess: for several years, the police haven’t bothered to send anyone who might make arrests.

 

There were only three other communal factors.

 

The weather, which was mostly dry, until some enthusiastic clown on the main stage on Saturday night started singing “Send your rain down, God”. He was being metaphorical, but Sunday’s clouds didn’t know this. The state of the lavatories — since the bulk of festival-goers still camp, this was a matter of some importance. They were better than in previous years, though you had to be selective, especially as the festival went on. And the Sunday-morning eucharist, though even this was split for the first part. The children got the better deal, with some jolly songs and a procession with banners, before the earnestness set in.

 

Otherwise, everyone pursued his or own spiritual path through the weekend, and some paths were more obviously spiritual than others. The key point was that the organisers had brought together high-calibre speakers and performers, so that very few events were tried and found wanting. That said, there were plenty of smaller venues around the site where younger or untried performers could cut their teeth — like the infant with the African drums . . .

 

The Church Times is an official associate of the Greenbelt Festival.

 

Further report

 

www.greenbelt.org.uk

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